It should be noted that different organizations and bodies have different working definitions of the terms below, and of the terms’ inter-relationship. As such, the following should be taken as a guide only.

GENDER: The political, social and cultural significance attached to biological differences between men and women, boys and girls. A focus on gender not only reveals information about women and men’s different experiences, it also sheds light on ingrained assumptions and stereotypes about men and women, the values and qualities associated with each, and the ways in which power relationships can change. The Secretary-General defines the term in his 2002 report Women, Peace and Security as: “the socially constructed roles as ascribed to women and men, as opposed to biological and physical characteristics. Gender roles vary according to socio-economic, political and cultural contexts, and are affected by other factors, including age, race, class and ethnicity. Gender roles are learned and are changeable.”

GENDER ANALYSIS: The variety of methods used to understand the relationships between men and women, their access to resources, and the relative constraints they face. Gender analysis recognizes that gender, and its relationship with race, ethnicity, culture, class, age, disability, and/or other status, is important to understanding the different patterns of involvement, behaviour and activities that women and men have in economic, social and legal structures. (Definition used by the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA.)

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE (GBV): An umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will based on socially-ascribed (gender) differences between males and females. Acts of GBV violate a number of human rights principles enshrined in international instruments. Globally, GBV has a disproportionate impact on women and girls, due to their subordinate status in society and their increased vulnerability to violence. GBV varies across cultures, countries and regions. Examples include: sexual violence; and domestic violence. (Definition used by IASC Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, 2005)

GENDER BALANCE: The degree to which men and women hold the full range of positions in a society or organization (more accurately, “sex ratio”). The long-term objective, as defined by the UN General Assembly, is to achieve a 50/50 gender balance.

GENDER EQUALITY: Equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for women and men; according equal consideration to the interests, needs and priorities of women and men. Gender equality does not imply a goal of non-differentiation between the sexes, but rather the elimination of adverse discrimination based on sex (e.g., lower remuneration for women doing the same work as men). Gender equality exists when both sexes are able to share equally in the distribution of power and influence; have equal opportunities for financial independence; enjoy equal access to education and the opportunity to develop personal ambitions, interests and talents; share domestic responsibilities; and are free from coercion, intimidation and GBV at work and at home. (Definition used by United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA)

GENDER MAINSTREAMING: “The process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.” (1997 UN Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC). Mainstreaming is not achieved by adding a “women/gender equality component” to an existing activity, or by simply increasing women’s participation. It means bringing the experience, knowledge and interests of women and men to bear on the development of an agenda or programme.

GENDER PERSPECTIVE: With respect to any social phenomenon, policy or process, exposing gender-based differences in status and power, and considering how such discrimination shapes the immediate needs, as well as the long-term interests, of women and men. (See, e.g., 1995 Beijing Platform for Action).

SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Encompasses: forced prostitution; sexual slavery; forced impregnation; forced maternity; forced termination of pregnancy; enforced sterilization; indecent assault; trafficking; inappropriate medical examinations and strip searches. (Arts 7; 8 Rome Statute of the ICC). Sexual violence may be considered a method of warfare when used systematically to torture, injure, extract information, degrade, threaten, intimidate or punish in relation to armed conflict (ICRC, Addressing the Needs of Women Affected by Armed Conflict) to UN Special Rapporteur, Gay J. McDougall, sexual violence describes “any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality.”

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether in public or private life (1993 GA Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women).